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FID and North Kings GSA-opposed well permitting bill defeated

Assembly Bill 2201 failed to pass the California State Senate in August in the wake of strong opposition from North Kings GSA, Fresno Irrigation District (FID), and several other valley agencies. It would have threatened a key underpinning of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) — local control of groundwater management.

North Kings GSA joined FID and Kings River Water Association, the eight San Joaquin Valley counties, and dozens of valley water districts and companies in opposing the bill because of challenges it would create surrounding well permitting and drilling decisions. Assembly Member Stephen Bennett (D-Santa Barbara) was the sponsor.

It would have required counties to forward well permit requests to the overlying Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) for approval. Before taking approval action, GSAs would have to undergo an expensive and lengthy process of environmental and hydrogeologic review to determine whether the request would impact nearby wells or cause infrastructure-damaging subsidence.

The measure would have placed undue financial burden and legal exposure to local GSAs, including the North Kings GSA, while causing significant time delays for growers and businesses to receive well permit approvals. Agencies opposing the bill recognized growers face persistent drought and a need to tap into water reserves underground to keep their businesses alive.

By mandating authority be placed into the hands of GSAs, the bill ultimately challenged the SGMA tenet that local areas are best suited to manage groundwater, including determining well permitting authorities.

The Valley Ag Water Coalition (VAWC), a coalition of 43 water districts including FID, and Kings River Legislative Committee formally opposed the bill. The respective lobbyists for the groups took action to meet with elected officials, governmental staff, and others for the duration of the legislative session to ensure the challenges this failed bill posed to our community of growers and residents were well-understood.

The bill’s failure to pass is a direct reflection of a collective fight against inefficient permitting and drilling processes. The North Kings GSA is proud to play a role in the effort to keep these decisions in local hands.

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